The Chicago Bulls fell to the 76ers in a series where Frank Vogel would be trying to convince the media that they really won. They were missing their two best players for the majority of the games and can go into the off-season wondering what if. The series ended in a set up so comically bad that you can't but help to laugh at it. A sick, twisted, mournful laugh that is.
With the Bulls nursing a one point lead, seven seconds on the clock, both teams out of time outs, and C.J. Watson with the ball and a chance to dribble out at least three seconds before someone on Philly can track him down, he passes the ball to Omer Asik who's not even all that open under the basket.
Omer gets fouled, misses both free throws, the Bulls fail to get back in transition defense despite the fact they should know Philly has no timeouts in which to stop the clock and needs to sprint back to get a shot off. Iguodala waltzes to the rim, gets fouled and knocks down both free throws. The Bulls, having squandered all their timeouts earlier, can make no reasonable attempt to win the game with two seconds remaining.
Pain creates change
I can't imagine the hurt in the Bulls locker room after dropping this game. After the first two games of this series, the next four could have gone either way. Unfortunately for us, three went to Philly and one went to Chicago.
However, after John Lucas single handedly gacked up game three by dribbling out the whole clock for about 10 possessions in a row, we didn't see that the rest of the series. Pain created change. Whether the Bulls benefit from that because Lucas comes back is an off-season question, but they will benefit from two key things at the end of game six.
I have been screaming at Tom Thibodeau to keep a timeout in his back pocket for the end game scenario for the past two years. He burns through timeouts Vinny Del Negro style. The nice thing about a Thibodeau timeout is that it actually has a pretty good chance of calming the Bulls down and creating something positive whereas the Bulls always played worse out of the VDN timeout. That said, you need timeouts for the end game.
It's simply too important to not have one in your back pocket to stop the clock if you need to. You know, like when you're down by one point with 2.2 seconds on the clock, and a timeout gives you a chance to take a really good look at the basket and the lack of one means you lose?
We lost a whole playoff series because Tom Thibodeau wouldn't keep a timeout in his back pocket. If he doesn't reconsider that idea now, then it's never going to happen, but I think he has to look at this as a coach and think a change needs to happen.
Omer Asik shot six of 17 from the free throw line for the series. His two misses at the end of the game will be imprinted on his mind all summer long. Unlike many poor foul shooters, his form isn't inherently bad. He strikes me as a guy who should have little problem getting up to 65-70% if he puts in the work, and I can't imagine an end to the season that will inspire more work than this.
This team fought hard
There were gaffs at the end of several games, and the Bulls will walk away from this one thinking they blew it. You could say that's true. You could argue that the team choked. That they should have won. I'd argue that the team played its ass off without Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
They never quit. When everyone doubted them, they kept coming. They kept fighting. They kept scrapping. I'm proud of their effort and still annoyed at the media at large that says the Bulls didn't put forth enough effort in games three and four. This team played hard every night. They didn't always execute and frequently tightened up, missing shots.
This team is what it is while key guys are missing
We can sit back and complain that Deng can't create his own shot as the number one option while being unable to dribble with his left hand due to a wrist injury. Deng's been in the league for eight years and couldn't create his shot with two wrists, so why would we expect him to do it with one? Deng's a guy who relies on the system to set himself up for shots while doing all the little things coaches love to impact the game in a positive way.
We can complain that C.J. Watson failed to step up and play like Derrick Rose against one of the league's best perimeter defenses. However, C.J. makes backup money to play back up minutes. At times he's given us much more, but he is who he is.
We can complain that Carlos Boozer completely melted away in meaningful minutes nearly ever game, but those who've followed Boozer's career already knew the score there. I described his stats as empty when we signed him and thought we overpaid him, but we had few alternatives which still seems true today. For those unconvinced of Boozer's overratedness when we signed him, they've likely already been convinced watching the past two seasons.
Taj and Omer really showed us something
It'd be easy to look at Omer's numbers and come away unimpressed with his performance throughout the playoffs. Especially when they end on him clanking two free throws to give away the game. However, Omer was absolutely dominant in this series defensively. The number of times slashers cut in the lane to find Omer there and simply had to pass the ball away was immense. Those are all mini-stops that don't get recorded in the stat sheet in any way, but make a huge impact on the game.
Taj Gibson looked like a complete shot blocking beast in this series. His energy and will was amazing. He played up to the moment constantly and looks more and more like a nice piece moving forward with this team. We can feel good about Taj going into the off-season.
Tough decisions coming
It'd be easy to check out on the Bulls this summer, and I suspect many of you will. However, the Bulls are faced with an interesting road this summer. They'll have to decide what they thought of their chances this year, decide if they're willing to pay the tax, decide if they want to reload, rebuild, or stay the same.
I'll have new content every week day, all summer long, up until the season tips off. The draft, free agency, trades, off-season workouts, I'll be bringing it. So stay tuned Bulls fans, training camp is right around the corner.